Amid continuing disruption to the railway services caused by worker disputes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he would establish a team to prevent a strike affecting essential services and to “enable freedom of movement for all Israeli citizens.”
“The train must travel,” Netanyahu vowed in a message on social media. “We have laid railroad tracks and there is no justification for a handful of people to stop trains for millions of Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers. That will not happen.”
On Sunday, Transportation Minister Israel Katz said at the cabinet’s weekly meeting that he would raise his proposal of enacting a mandatory arbitration law for essential services, prohibiting strikes in critical services.
The efforts to prevent strikes come after trains across the country once again ground to a halt on Friday as eight traffic managers at the National Railways Command failed to turn up to work, reporting illness.
Katz blamed Israel Railways workers union head Gila Edrei and the Histadrut labor federation for the latest action as railway employees continue to protest their workloads.
Arnon Bar-David – the new head of the Histadrut – replied angrily to Netanyahu, accusing him of undermining the foundations of democracy and harming citizens.
“Anyone who tries to test the strength of organized labor will quickly discover the magnitude of his error,” said Bar-David. “We have turned to peace and cooperation in order to strengthen the working class and improve services for citizens, but anyone who tries to exploit that to launch an incitement campaign against workers will face a forceful response.”
One of the first challenges faced by incoming Israel Railways CEO Michael Maixner, appointed last week, will be to make progress on the ongoing dispute between workers and railway management.
Maixner will replace Shahar Ayalon, who spent two years and three months at the helm.
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